SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – A longtime zookeeper in southwest Missouri was killed today when he was charged by an elephant, a spokeswoman for the city of Springfield said.
John Bradford, 62, died when he was attacked by an elephant inside the area at the Dickinson Park Zoo where the elephants are housed, city spokeswoman Cora Scott said.
The elephant, a 41-year-old female named Patience, had been at the zoo since 1990, according to officials for the Springfield zoo.
Bradford worked at the zoo for 30 years and had been the zoo’s elephant manager for 25 years.
“It’s an extremely sad time for the co-workers at the zoo and at the city,” Scott said.
Several employees were with Bradford at the time because Patience had a history of being aggressive, she said.
The zoo has two female and two male elephants. Another female, named Connie, died earlier this month.
Longtime friend and former co-worker Paul Price told the Springfield News-Leader that elephants were Bradford’s passion.
“He had a great deal of respect and love for them and cared about the conservation,” Price said.
“He was always aware of dangers and everything and was instrumental in developing the elephant management program at the zoo at the national and international levels,” he added.
Zoo officials said they did not yet know what would happen to Patience. The zoo opened as usual today and the accident remained under investigation.
“This is very sad day for the zoo family, as well as our community as a whole,” said Mike Crocker, assistant parks director and zoo director.